Town By Town: In Plumstead, good schools in bucolic setting
One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Plumstead Township has a rural quality nearly three decades of home construction hasn't altered, and it's convenient to Philadelphia, New York, and the burgeoning Doylestown restaurant scene.
Convenience, however, ranks second to the Central Bucks School District among Plumstead's attractions, says Toll Bros. assistant vice president for Bucks County Joe Sotack, sharing the prospective buyers' punch list.
Home ownership here can cost as little as $31,000: the asking price of a mobile home at Valley View on Route 611.
Or it can cost as much as $10.5 million, for what Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach in New Hope, says is Bucks County's priciest listing: an early-18th-century farmhouse with additions, outbuildings, and "exquisite gardens" on more than 100 acres on Twin Silk Road (and a yearly property tax bill of $66,138).
Frank Dolski, of Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Lahaska, who counts Plumstead as one of "my central selling areas," says that typically more than 25 percent of annual sales here are newly built homes, although development is modest in scope now compared with past decades.
In the last 12 months, says Spadaccini, there have been 189 home sales, of which 62 were new construction.
Plumstead is very much a market of single-family detached homes: Resales for June 2013 to June 2014 break down to 81 of the 127 units settled. There are few rentals, with a 94 percent home-ownership rate, Spadaccini says.
Dolski's data show marked improvement in average list price vs. average sale price in the last year, over 2012-13.
Average list price in 2012-13 was $414,344, but the average sale price was $402,788, his data show. In the last 12 months, the average list price was $406,235, but the average sale price was $409,408, with sellers apparently more realistic about what they want.
The number of homes listed for sale in the last 12 months, 346, is lower than in the previous period's 410, Dolski's data show.
"I don't know what sellers are waiting for," he says, when asked about the shortage of homes for sale here - a trait common to most of the region's submarkets.
Both agents say the closing of Lockheed Martin's Newtown facility in 2015 will add to for-sale inventory in Plumstead.
In response to more appropriate pricing and fewer homes for sale, time on market has fallen to 64 days this year from 71 in 2013, although February's number spiked to 156 days because of bad weather.
Plumstead's buyers are a combination of corporate transfers, some first-time buyers, and - most important, Dolski believes - "those moving up from townhouses to single homes."
The "sweet spot" of the resale market here is $350,000 to $550,000, he says, with buyers mostly ranging in age from late 20s through mid-40s.
Currently, 36 homes are under agreement, six of them new construction, Spadaccini says. Her data for the last 12 months peg the median price for new construction at $441,609, compared with $359,000 for previously owned houses.
There are several new-home communities here, although two, Toll Bros.' Plumstead Chase and Preserve at Plumstead, have both sold out, Dolski says, noting that the 23 luxury homes at the Preserve sold out faster than the 40 at the Chase.
The reason, says Toll's Sotack, is that the homes at the Preserve are on one-acre lots.
"One-acre lots are sparse in Bucks County," he says, "and this is what made the Preserve [priced at $600,000 to $700,000] attractive to buyers. You cannot find that much ground in most places."
Plumstead Chase, with prices in the $500,000s and $600,000s, was Toll's first community in the township, Sotack says. Toll's other two projects here were acquired from other builders.
The 21 homes at Plumstead Woods start in the mid-$500,000s, he says.
There are no 55-plus communities in Plumstead, the Realtors say. Sotack believes that has more to do with the size necessary for such communities than with local demand.
"Age-qualified communities depend on zoning, although I can't speak to this township specifically," he says. "But if you look at age-qualified [projects] in surrounding townships, they are much larger than what we are building here."
NV Homes' Carriage Hill community (with a Doylestown zip code) has 22 of 114 townhouses (upper $350,000s) and 30 of 86 singles (upper $390,000s) yet to be sold, Dolski says, noting most buyers are local, either moving up or downsizing.
NV Homes' Garden Village (also with a Doylestown zip) has 28 home sites from the $470,000s, and six "have sold very quickly," Dolski says.
In addition, there is a "smattering of builders" with one- to five-home developments in the township, Spadaccini says.
Although all of Plumstead is in the Central Bucks district, Spadaccini says buyers "specifically ask for either Groveland or Gayman Elementary Schools."
"Groveland is larger and more up to date, while Gayman is smaller and more intimate," she says. "Both are highly sought after."
By the Numbers
Population: 12,442 (2010)
Median income: $88,924 (2011)
Area: 27.8 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 39
Homes for sale: 135
Days on market: 64
Median price: $359,000 (resales); $441,609 (newly built homes)
Housing stock: New construction since the 1980s; farms, mobile homes starting at $31,000
School district: Central Bucks
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Frank Dolski, Coldwell Banker Hearthside, Lahaska; Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, New Hope